Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

GWS Week 1 Discussion

This is my response to the first week discussion questions- we're supposed to talk about what we think feminism is, what "feminist" means to us, what we think we're going to learn after reading the stuff from the first week, how the readings affected us/what we thought of them, and a thing that we think will be hard in the class/what to do about it.
Commentary/changes I added later are in brackets.

Trigger Warning: References to sexism, ableism, classism, racism, etc and some description of the intersection of sexism and disability/ableism. (Yes, sexism and disability/ableism, it's the effects that my actual impairments have on my experience of sexism in addition to how people react to the impairments.)

In my head, feminism is the movement and gender and women's studies is the academic discipline. The two go together, and scholar-activists, those who work in both the academy and in activist circles, are extremely important to making sure that the two do not fall too far out of sync and in making sure the historically exclusive academy remains aware of the day-to-day needs of the activists. In an ideal world, activists and academics would find where the ideals of what can be and the practical needs of the world intersect, then push their respective worlds towards those goals- this should be true of any movement with both academic and activist portions. Both feminism and gender/women's studies should address issues relating to gender as the main focus, making sure to cover intersections of gender with all other marginalizations. Thus, a feminist should also be anti-racist, accepting of gender and sexual minorities, anti-classist, and anti-ableist, and academic work in gender and women's studies should avoid perpetuating other -isms in rhetorical arguments against sexism.
While the word feminist brings a man-hating lesbian who probably does not shave her legs to many minds, to me, it simply means someone who understands that gender inequality and discrimination exists, privileging masculine performance, identification, and legal assignment over the feminine and believes that all the gender identities and presentations should be equal. (I will admit- I actually don't shave my legs. It's more a matter of sensory processing issues, clumsiness, and knowing I won't remember to keep up with it than a political matter, though. Autism: it's a thing.)
From my initial readings of the text, it looks like I will gain knowledge of what to call many of the things I have been thinking about and a more detailed understanding of them- I had noticed previously that my androgyne (as in, actually has a mix of masculine and feminine things in it) presentation and identity was consistently perceived as female, and I had put together that this was only partially due to my having been assigned female at birth and looking like it. Part of it was also the fact that people often perceive maleness as neutral, which looks to be part of androcentrism (Shaw and Lee 1.) Seeing the word androcentrism, I notice that androgyne as a mix of the two binary genders has "andro" in it, which would mean male if androcentrism is male-centrism, but I do not recognize a root for female. Perhaps the term we use for the in-between state of a mix is, in fact, another example of androcentrism. [I realized that gyne was a female root about 10 minutes after turning this in. My teacher did not wind up calling me on this, and I forgot to change it in this. But then Irena told me in the comments, so not I remember- yes, gyne is in there.] I also expect that I will learn more about issues that are applicable to looking at the intersections of various marginalizations, which was one of my goals in this course- the text mentions the intersection of race and gender as early as page 2; Carestathis writes specifically on intersections focusing on race and gender (Carestathis;) Rich implies that education opened to white middle class women before other women (Rich 23,) an intersection of class, gender, and race; bell hooks notes that the face of feminism is typically white women with material privileges and that "white men were more willing to consider women's rights when the granting of those rights could serve the interests of maintaining white supremacy (hooks 35.) The ability to look critically at intersections, even (and perhaps especially!) those which reside outside my initial area of interest, disability, is an important part of what I hope to gain from this course.
As I was already aware that women with more privileges tended to dominate conversations in mainstream feminism, ignoring the concerns of those with fewer, hook's statement that many stopped thinking about revolution when they got a bit of power (hooks 35) combined with the reminder that feminism must be concerned with ending all oppression, for no one is truly free until everyone is (Carestathis) only serve to remind me of how much work there is to be done, that the whole system needs to be rebuilt in order to achieve true liberation, possibly from scratch. It is a daunting task, which will require people working together- not the "We're all women, be quiet and let me be racist/ableist/classist/etc against you" or "We're all disabled, be quiet and let me be sexist/racist/homophobic/etc towards you" sort of working together, but the sort where the people who have privilege in a given situation listen to those who do not.
bell hook's piece resonated with me, with her statements about a "Christian" culture, and how a white supremacist capitalist (and therefore classist) patriarchy would never change enough to end oppression. She noted a split between reformers and revolutionaries, with the reformers focusing on equality based on gender and revolutionaries wanting to change the whole system, recognizing that simply fixing gender discrimination would not make the world free (hooks 34-35.) 
[Yes, I'm about to start talking about how my experiences are different because I'm Autistic now.] Few of the statements made by Quindlen resonated, with much of her writing seemingly speaking more to the experiences of women who are able to decode and understand social rules, rather than being consistently mystified by the whole mess. Without the ability to comprehend (or even necessarily detect the existence of) quiet social pressures unless someone brings them explicitly to my attention, "effortless perfection" and all it entails is something I can only see as a thing that society somehow got people to do. [I can also academically understand how it works, but I can't feel most of the pressures unless people state them explicitly.] I can never experience the subtle pressures of what I "should" do, because in order to even know that there is a message, it must be relayed so explicitly that the issues within become obvious, which is far from subtle. That is not to say that I do not experience sexism [or that I could not/did not absorb messages perpetuating other -isms]- I do [and did]. It is just in different ways. Instead of the subtle pressure of media images telling me I should shave my legs, I get told by well-meaning [but misogynist] neighbors that I should start. Instead of media subtly suggesting that I need to wear makeup to get a man, classmates demanded to know why I wasn't covering my acne and told me explicitly that I would never get a boyfriend if I didn't learn to apply makeup properly (not going to happen- it's a sensory issue. Autism: Still a thing.)
Her statement about only 14% of sciences faculty being female (Quinden 39,) however, I noticed, having found myself outnumbered by men at even greater ratios in many of my engineering courses. In one course, I was the only female-presenting student in a class of nearly 50.
One of the hardest parts of the course for me, I suspect, will be taking off the disability studies goggles long enough to look at the world through a differently focused sociological lens. In reality, I suspect that I will be one of those who hits the intersection of gender and disability most, but that by making sure to look at the other angles first, I will get better at using the gender lens.

Carestathis, Anna. "Intersectionality & Feminism." N.p., 13 Feb. 2008. Web. 24 May  
hooks, bell. "Feminist Politics: Where We Stand." 2000. Women's Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and 
    Contemporary Readings. By Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee. 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher 
    Education, 2011. 33-36. Print.
Quindlen, Anna. "Still Needing the F Word." 2003. Women's Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and 
    Contemporary Readings. By Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee. 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher 
    Education, 2011. 39-40. Print.
Rich, Adrienne. "Claiming an Education." 1979. Women's Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and 
    Contemporary Readings. By Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee. 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher 
    Education, 2011. 23-25. Print.
Shaw, Susan M., and Janet Lee. "Women's Studies: Perspectives and Practices." Women's Voices, 
    Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings. 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher 
    Education, 2011. 1-22. Print.


  1. 'gyn' is in fact a Greek root meaning 'female' or 'woman'. So 'androgyne' does have both genders in it explicitly.

    1. Thanks for reminding me I need to mention that... (I actually realized this about 10 minutes after submitting the essay and forgot to comment on that here... what is remembering to do things?)


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